Staying in state: Athens star Gambrell chooses Penn State.

By: Brian Fees | Towanda Daily Review | October 23, 2017

 

She's one of the best athletes in the state of Pennsylvania. And, now Athens' Breana Gambrell will be staying in the state for college.

The four-time state champion choose to continue her track and field career at Penn State next season.

"It was very, very stressful," Gambrell said of the process of picking a college. "I made it through it with the help of my community and family and friends."

When the process started for Gambrell she had schools from all over reaching out to her hoping to recruit the track and field standout.

"Maybe, I'd say about 50 that reached out over the course of the whole thing," Gambrell said.

And, as she started to work her way toward a decision Gambrell had a final four of Penn State, LSU, Clemson and Virginia Tech.

"It was hard, I'm not going to lie," Gambrell said. "Sometimes my head got foggy, I didn't know what I wanted. Eventually, I got pulled back down to earth and had to listen to my gut. What my gut was saying and it was saying Penn State."

Looking at four premier schools from different spots in the country made the choice that much tougher for Gambrell.

"It was very, very, very tough," she said. "I had to look at what was most important to me. It was very hard trying to pick out what each school had. Especially since all these schools have amazing resources.

"It was hard, it was definitely hard. Location really wasn't an issue for me. But, the fact that I was about to decide my future, that's what was very hard for me, what if I picked the wrong one? What if I didn't like it?

One of the things that helped with the decision was that Gambrell's brother Jarred had gone through the same process, before ending up competing at Michigan State. With her brother going through it Breana's parents had been through the process before.

"It was definitely very, very helpful," Breana said. "They knew all the right questions to ask, how to keep me calm and guide me through the whole process."

And, Breana learned from what her brother went through.

Jarred went to Michigan State and his coach ended up leaving, and he had to deal with a coaching change. That was something that was on Breana's mind as she picked schools.

"It definitely was on my mind," she said. "I was being extra cautious through the whole thing, I wanted to make sure the coach who recruited me would be there the entire four years and not leave me. As awful as it was for Jarred, I'm glad we learned from that mistake."

While location wasn't a deciding factor for Breana, she is happy to be close enough to have family and friends watch her in college.

"It definitely is nice having the whole Valley and everyone be able to come out and support me whenever is a big bonus Breana said.

There are a lot of athletes at Penn State that Breana has known over the years, last year two NTL athletes, Sayre's Elyse Skerpon and Wellsboro's Bobby Hill were on the team, at Penn State.

"There are quite a few I've seen around, it's cool to see," Gambrell said. "I'm going to know a lot of familiar faces there, it's a good feeling to know next year I'll be walking into a huge family. It's definitely going to be less stressful, I have a family full of 90-plus athletes."

For Gambrell the atmosphere at Penn State was just impossible to match anywhere else.

"It's very, very competitive," she said. "I'm looking forward to it. The atmosphere overall it's to die for. It doesn't get much better than Penn State's atmosphere.

"I am extremely excited to get there. It's going to be so much fun. The atmosphere there, the community, you can't beat it.

When Gambrell was looking at schools she had a lot of things to consider, and the schools were pulling out all the stops. One example was meeting Lolo Jones during her visit to LSU. However, at the end of the day the Athens senior knew she had to stay focused on what was most important.

"It was hard, it was very, very hard, but then some of the things they are showing, they don't really matter," Gambrell said. "It's really what's at the core at the university that appealed to me. Sure, you have this nice facility, but facilities don't make great athletes.

"It was probably the hardest part of the entire thing (choosing between the final four schools). They were all wonderful schools. I loved each and every one of them. But, it goes back to what I valued at a school and that's what helped me."

And, for Gambrell Penn State had everything she valued.

"It was just the atmosphere and the family like feeling," she said. "Everyone there is friendly and nice and they welcomed me with open arms."

And, for Gambrell in the end it really came down to academics over anyting else.

"Penn State was honestly the perfect fit," she said. "Academics was the deciding factor for me. They have a great business school and that's what appealed to me."

For many in Pennsylvania there is a lifelong love of Penn State. However, for Gambrell the school wasn't really someplace she started thinking about until recently.

"I actually didn't (follow Penn State growing up)," Gabmrell said. "My visit was like the second time I've been on campus. It was a new environment for me."

Staying in state for college means that Gambrell will likely have more chances to see her sister Ariana, and younger brother Benny, compete in high school.

"I am extremely excited for that," she said. "I'll still be a part of their lives, be able to see them for basketball and soccer and hopefully be there when they go through this process themselves."

And, for Breana it's nice to have this process over with. For the past couple years choosing a college was on her mind a lot.

"It was on my mind constantly," she said. "It was tough, it really was, to have all those eyes on me. If I didn't perform at my best, how would they see me? It's just nice to have that pressure off my shoulders."

And, now that the pressure of deciding on a school is done, Gambrell is ready for her senior track and field season.

"I am extremely excited," she said. "This is going to be the best year yet."

 

About the Author

Brian Fees Author Bio
Brian Fees

Brian Fees is the sports editor of the Daily & Sunday Review in Towanda, PA.